Sunday, August 30, 2015

Near distant futures.

I've been working on the new book. Been putting in that work on the paper. Or screen as it would be.

I'm doing a collection of three shorts and a novella as part of wave one of The Lilim Chronicles (just like the title of this page!) It's the follow up and companion to a few of the stories in Urban Legends of the Future. Its title? By Starlight - Before Dawn.

It's the novella By Starlight, which tells the tale of Johnny Marko and Tressie Unknown from Sucking Out Loud. It's the first time that we'll witness my vision of the future internet in action. It's also a more full melding of the cyberpunk and urban fantasy genres than the previous short stories of Urban Legends. By Starlight is the foundation and nod to a lot of the events that happen through the history of the Chronicles, both past and future. It's an even better stepping stone into my world than Urban Legends was to be honest.

In between the title tracks, there's You're Just Data and The Clone Wars. Both stories tie in with Mind Your Manners, the aforementioned Sucking Out Loud, and Say Goodbye, Hollywood from Urban Legends of the Future. And all of those stories tie into the novel, To Slice the Sky, at the end of Wave 1. You're Just Data is the introduction to the big bad of To Slice the Sky. The Clone Wars, much like the stories it ties into, fills in dead space that gets glossed over in the novel.

Bookending the novella collection is Before Dawn. It ties in with Things That Are Cold in Urban Legends. Before Dawn is a closer relationship with the unnamed antagonist of the previous story.

So that's pretty much where I'm at right now. Still kicking around which era to tackle next. Lots of cool stuff coming your way in the future.

And to give an image to this post, here's the initial cover images for By Starlight - Before Dawn

Cover (no text)/alternate back cover

Back Cover/alternate cover(no text)

Monday, August 24, 2015

Waging war against sleep.

Man, I've been getting awful about keeping up to my schedule of blogging.

I've been working on the follow up to Urban Legends of the Future. Doing a novella with three short stories attached as a follow up to my previous post, "Sucking Out Loud." It's the second part of The Lilim Chronicles first wave.

Man, I am beat. Sorry, don't work a normal human weeks anymore. I'll try to post consistently. This is hard for me right now. So tired.

Monday, August 17, 2015

The story of a home.

Post is late. Sorry about that.

Yesterday I got caught up reading old scripts for a wedisode series my friends and I wrote about this apartment complex I used to live at. They need some cleaning up, but it's good stuff with sharp characters. But all of those characters are composites of residents we knew back at said apartment complex.

This place is an artist community that various friends of mine have lived at during different points in their lives. My tenure there was at a transitional point in time, but it supplied enough stories to last a lifetime. Of course, being an, "artist community," I expected to be creating stories while living there. Which I did. But only the good ones came after I left.

One such story originated with a random day sitting around the common area wondering about this random apartment/shack that would sort of constitute as a fourth floor. A group of us neighbors were day drinking and enjoying each others company, just chit chatting about what great things could be done with the random floating shack that sat watch over the courtyard.

It became a story in my first book, Urban Legends of the Future.

This is my spin on what's going on up in the shack on the 4th floor. To fill up content space, I'd like to share it.


Sucking Out Loud

“So you think anything’s even up there right now?” Seven heads followed the line made by Lex’s finger.
Johnny, Trip, Decker, Thorn, Prez, Terry and Hiro squinted at the corrugated aluminum shack/unit. It perched gargoyle-like above the third floor of Das Haus against the sunshine. Prez went back to plunking out, ‘I Wanna Be Sedated’ on the baby grand turned bar fixture.
Thorn covered her eyes from the sunset, “Anyone ever see a light on in there?”
“What say you, Johnny Markoolname?” Decker baby sipped his martini from a bendy straw, head rocking on the piano bar, “you’ve lived here the longest.”
“Not to mention you’re physically closest to the thing,” Trip wiped sweat out of his eyebrows.
“Fragged if I know,” Johnny Marko snort-an-horked a sinus clogger into the dirt, “never seen anyone go in, never seen anyone come out,” Johnny uncrossed an arm to scratch at his stubbled lazyhawk.
“I bet there’s like an axe-murderer that lives up there, and like, in the hours when no one’s in the courtyard, he like digs graves for his victims,” Thorn got tired of holding her head up with her hands.
Decker scoffed, “Yeah. Right. Like there’s a time when peeps aren’t awake and corralling all around this place. Who’s JumpUp are you huffing?”
“Johnny’s,” Thorn positioned herself so she could scowl at Decker through the open piano lid, “same as you.”
Johnny scratched his back on the wall he was holding up, “Neither of you go to my shows.”
Prez, speaking through her fingers, needed to get to the airport and be put on a plane.
“Well, awkward silence brought to you by DeMolition Lab,” said Lex, “if nothing’s up there, you’d think someone would do something with the place.”
“I heard Dahng say once it’s the same rent as a studio,” Johnny took a slug from his tallcan, “who wants to rent that instead of a unit where they’d actually want to live?”
“I wouldn’t want to live up there,” said Trip.
“You can barely stand our place,” Decker sipped more.
Lex perked up, “Oo. You know what’d be cool?” her Valley girl accent dragged, “If all of us pitched in and rented it out as, like, a studio. For like. Whatever.”
“I’m fairly certain the axe murderer is already renting it,” said Thorn.
“Dahng will evict anyone for more money,” Terry exhaled smoke through her nose, displeased with her hand.
“So that’s why someone’s already moving into Spencer’s place,” Hiro dealt Terry fresh cards, “Has anyone seen a light up in there?”
Decker loosed the straw from his lips, “I haven’t. But when I did work on the grid, I saw that there’s active media and power.”
Prez tinkled the ivories on the final, ‘sedated’. A round of applause from the audience. “Maybe there’s some creature that’s been locked away for centuries up there,” Prez said, “and the seal that’s been keeping our world safe from its day of reckoning will break if we open the door.” Prez looked around, “anyone else got a smoke I can bum?”
“Well, that’s about my quota of crazy for the day,” Johnny Marko pulled himself away from the wall. He pounded his tall can, crunched it in his fist and dropped it in the recycler with a belch. “Bye, people.”

Johnny hunted faces in the cottage cheese ceiling above his bead, hands behind his head. He hadn’t found new ones in the ceiling of apartment 301 for a decade.
‘72 was when he first started slumming around Das Haus. He came for the parties his old girlfriend, Tressie Unknown, used to spin at. Had it really been twenty-five years? Johnny lived another adolescence trapped in the so called artist haven.
He was still in the same band, playing to the same people who had jobs that supported his own lifestyle. He was selling Designer Molecules from friends who crafted them to friends that used them. He was bored and old.
This is exactly how he wanted to live his life at seventeen when he first came to this place. When Tressie was still with him. Before she went over the rainbow that one fragged up night.
There’s no point in thinking about her, man. No point wasting time on what can’t be. The logical part of Johnny’s brain told the rest of itself. And speaking of what can’t be. Why can’t I leave this skagpit complex?
Johnny craved nicotine. He regretted quitting for the nth time. Instead he clutched under his bed, clinking glass bottles about, till he found a slosh of something. Johnny unscrewed the cap and sniffed hard. Wincing at the tang of piss, Johnny spun the cap back on and chucked the bottle out his screenless window. His head hit the pillow before the bottle hit the ground with a satisfying splash/shatter sound.
Johnny gave up the search for more liquor and shut his eyes.

Rapid thuds at the door jolted Johnny out of bed, hand gripped around his classic M9 under his pillow, eyes scanning for intruders.
More thuds, “Jooooohnyyyyyyyyyy. Oh Mr. Marrrrrrkooooooooo,” Thorn’s falsetto piercing through the plywood door.
Johnny debated shooting her anyway, loosed his grip on the pistol, and opened the door as far as the chain allowed.
“Johnnycakes, whatchyadooooooooin?” Thorn bounced through the crack.
Johnny looked around his studio. Sodium floodlights cast shadows through the open window. His clock faced towards his bed, shining red against yellow light in a dark room. Thorn scratched her arm, hopping from foot to foot. “I guess I was sleeping. What, got the crawls?”
“Yeeeeeaaaah,” Thorn tried to be adorable. Her sunken eyes looked dead in the stairwell light outside 301. If it was from the JumpUp or makeup who knew.
“Johnny ‘Dadfraggin’ Marko. My main man in the DeMo lab,” Decker’s voice echoed up the stairwell with the rattle of his footsteps, “Dub-Tee-Eff, Thorn. Jumping in on my fraggin’ sale time?” Decker stank of coffee and chocolate in his work get up over Thorn’s patchouli and rosepetal perfume.
Johnny sighed with his whole body and shut the door in their faces. Chain undone, Johnny opened it up again on the two of them making faces at each other. “C’mon,” Johnny waved them in, “let’s get this over with.”
Decker pushed his way past Thorn, “Anything fancy in your stash tonight?”
“Why do you guys hate sleep so much?” Johnny shook a vial of tablets and an inhaler pod in his hand, “Decker, you looking for anything in particular?”
Decker shrugged and stuffed his hands in his pockets, “No, not really. Work sucked, could go for something that would help me forget about it.”
Sounds of the common area coming alive downstairs came through the open door. 22:23 shown in the clock’s numerics. Johnny shook the vial, “Mescaline research moli. Puts you into some kinda RPG, spirit journey, trip.”
“No way. That’s like something out of a comic,” Decker said, “frag it, I’ll take ‘em.”
Thorn stepped in front of Decker, “You haven’t forgotten about my Up, right? Could go for some of that tonight,” she b-movie laughed, cheek skin twitching.
Decker and Thorn tapped their cryptocred cards to Johnny’s for the appropriate amount. Thorn gave Johnny a kiss on the cheek and fled with her JumpUp.
Decker pocketed his DeMos, “So what’re you up to tonight?
“I dunno man. Same skag as every other fraggin’ night,” Johnny shut his drawer and took a seat on his bed, “what’s it matter? You’re going on a quest.”
“Just doing the dealer/buyer requisite chat,” Decker shrugged with his hands in his pockets.
“Think we could save it tonight?” Johnny rubbed his face.
Decker rattled the vial in his pocket, “Yeah, sure man. Look, if you do need to talk. I’m here for more than altered perception, dude.”
“I don’t want to talk tonight.”
“Well, you know where I live,” Decker turned to go, “I never sleep, and tonight, I’m going on an adventure,” he said over his shoulder, flicking the vial of pills in his pants.


The Cobalt was packed for an all ages show. Johnny squeezed into a table in the back with a cola he emptied a flask into. Bodies of tweens to twentysomethings sardined together around the step up stage.
A girl of no more than fourteen-crowned in liberty spikes-stalked back and forth on the stage, sneering at the crowd. She snarled something into the mic that could have been the band name or song title followed by a shrill “1-2-3-4!” Buzzsaw guitars revved up to mosh speed. The crowd reacted with pushing, shoving, and pogoing.
Johnny used to be one of those thrashing bodies. Now there were gray strands in his collapsed hawk. All the latest DeMolition Lab songs they’d written sounded like these OldxSchoolxHardxCore punks on stage, which sounded like the songs they’d been writing when he was a teen. All the same anti-corporate government skag being spit over and over again. Everyone shrieking the same message that’s been ignored by the people who need to hear it. The worst part about shouting against a corporate government is discovering how little shouting accomplishes. Especially at pay-to-play clubs.
Johnny downed half his drink. The singer had some boy around her age by the shirt, shouting something in mocknese in his face. When’s the last time I felt anything from this?
Johnny stared into his melting ice and carbonation bubbles. There wasn’t anything remotely like a buzz in his brain. Feedback assaulted his ears. Another “1-2-3-4!” and distorted thirty-second notes with a D-Beat. Johnny left his half drink and the establishment. Some punk kid swooped his spot once Johnny was out the club back door.
“I’m tellin’ ya man, that’s like my fraggin’ dream, man,” some skinny punk with his arm around another, “just, like, playing music, making art, fraggin’, partying and burnin’ down the fragging establishment, man.”
“Frag the establishment,” a girl with too much eye makeup pumped her fist in the air.
The skinny punk replied, fist in the air in solidarity, “Frag the fraggin’ establishment.”
“And I can design your band shirts,” The guy in The Skinny Punk’s arms nuzzled his boy.
Johnny walked hard away from the scene with a, “Fraggin’ kids,” under his breath.

Das House’s gate rattled behind Johnny. He tossed the empty bottle of tequila at the recycle bins next to the gate. His feet ached through the drunk haze from his walk home. No one was in the courtyard. Lights glowed in apartment windows, except on the 2nd floor on the right.
Hiro moved in six months ago, wanting to write the great American novel, with his rat cage and a duffle bag. When Johnny looked inside the studio there was no sign of any of these things. Hiro was playing cards in the courtyard today, and now it’s like he never existed. Not even left behind take-out condiments like the previous tenant of 301.
When Johnny left the dismal, open, apartment, he looked up towards his own. Not sure if it was the tequila, but Johnny could have sworn the fourth floor shack just switched their lights off.


//Johnny. Johnny Marko. C’mon guttersucker, pay attention.// a dark figure standing in the stre
ets of 삼성타운 Korea with an umbrella that looks
an awful lot like a katana sheath. //Johnny.//
who spoke your name Johnnycakes? The dark stran
ger with the wild hair or the lady in the seat?
Johnny knows he has to turn around right now an
d look right down the street——there will be so
meone he knows with something important——//Joh
nny, what I have to say is important. Now are
you going to join in the conversation or is th
is a strictly one-sided…// Johnny finished hi
s turn to catch the figure’s lips flapping as
a rush of passing shoppers melted into the li
ghting that surrounded the inkblot intrusion.
Johnny shrunk at first. When he looked back t
o who he was talking to at the outside seatin
g of some establishment. There sat

Tressie Unknown.

Her hair, still a bunch of dreds beneath a bowler derby, gave her away. It was tea time in this parlor with its waitstaff frozen in stiff armature poses, dressed in finery.
I can’t keep them at bay any longer, Johnny. :T
Why are you interrupting this dream to haunt it? :J
Think Johnny. Think back. It’s happening again, just like last time. But this time we know why. :T
You never told me what’s going on. Then you went braindead. :J
That’s what you want to believe. :T
I want to move on. :J
If you want to move on, you have to move. :T
Everyone else is moving out. :J
//No. They’re not.// and rainclouds fill the sky outside as the roof we believed in now does not exist rainwater drips into our tea and the walls glow in the neon of 삼성타운 shopping district //I can’t protect you anymore, Johnny. Not against this many.// Tressie closed her eyes and the light from her augments showed through the lids burning bright green painting the rain sluicing off of her hat brim into emeralds lightning forks above their heads reflecting dozens of violet eyes and she sidewalk chalk drawing washes away in the rain
//Expect bad dreams.//


Someone skagged in Johnny’s braincage to over capacity, pressing against his eye sockets, till it spilled into his mouth. That or he was hungover. He gulped the first bottle next to his bed with his eyes closed. After two warm chugs, Johnny spewed urine all over his sheets. His pants were around his ankles. He didn’t bother to take his boots off.

At least this time Johnny didn’t remember the dreams.

Johnny had grown up thinking sex was a pretty awesome thing. He hadn’t had any in about twenty-seven years by now, but it’s not like he’d really dreamt about it. Everything changed after that dream two years ago when Tressie showed up in the rain and they had crumpets or something. The sex dreams made up for lost time in awful, frightening, ways. Ways that Johnny had buried a long time ago in the idea of childhood nightmare fuel.

Each morning for the last two years Johnny woke up feeling used in every sense of the term. His will to do much of anything sapped in a vortex of selling DeMo’s, buying drink, and barely noticing the complex shift through more new tenants than anyone could keep track.
No one stuck around. Not like in the old days that bred the legacy tenants like Lex, Terry and Thorn. People who have Dahng counter-extorted into cheap rent with no intention of growing up. Whenever Johnny lumped himself into that category, that was a drink.
Even Prez went legit. Working at a RoPhar satellite. At least Decker and Trip are back after moving away for a bit. Weirder than before. They went RoPhar too, but with the spooks around 211 when they go off doing who knows what. Pretty crooked looking deal. Seeing a suit was another drink. Dahng yelling at the suit was two. If Dahng scares off clones, finish the bottle.

Johnny’s shower had dried vomit and tequila bottles in it. The bathroom mirror was smashed from a previous incident but the hole into the closet was possibly new. Johnny stripped himself and moved the bottles carefully into the sink, wincing at the volume of each glass clink.

Dressed, and no longer covered in—hopefully, his own—bodily fluids, Johnny found himself outside 211. He knocked on the door, alcohol laced sweat promising to undo his shower. Johnny looked at the orange sky behind him, flicking a glance towards the fourth floor. No axe murderer silhouetted against the opaque door glass. Another knock that hurt Johnny more than he cared to experience again. His sore knuckles and throbbing head were vindicated as Decker cracked the door. Johnny saw his bare upper arm and assumed Decker was naked. Finding Decker clothed would be more impressive.
“Yo, Decker. Is Trip around?”
“Yeah, he’s working right now. C’mon in,” Decker opened the door to reveal he was still wearing shorts, but his torso looked like it was being punished for something it didn’t do.
Johnny entered the sparse furnished apartment. A ring of server towers enclosed a cushy ergonomic chair in the center of the room. The HoloVision swam along the empty space in the living area. Decker’s eyes were a mish-mash of glowing orange rimmed in red and heavy black circles.
“You having trouble sleeping too?” Johnny said.
“Since I was a kid,” Decker led Johnny out of the common space to Trip’s room, “gotten worse lately,” he fonzied open the door.
Inside, Trip inspected a dozen double helixes and alpha-numeric charts, floating in the air above his bed, while, tapping a stylus on a sheaf of smart paper. Without looking away from his work, “May I help you gentlemen? A word I use loosely for you two rogues.” Trip scribbled and flung a note off the smart paper to join the holodisplay, “What?”
Decker shrugged at Johnny. Johnny cleared his throat, “This feels kinda backwards, but can I get some of your hangover pills?” Trip raised an eyebrow, continuing to work. Johnny rubbed his temples with one hand, “I’ll pay you if you want.”
“Creds are a poor substitute for destroying a sample I only have a week to reconstruct from my beginning notes, but I accept,” Trip chewed the end of his stylus, “I recommend three, ten creds each. Decker can show you where they are.”
“C’mon, Johnny Marko. Let’s get you patched up,” Decker led Johnny away from Trip and to the bathroom.
Decker rifled through the vanity drawer and pulled a prescription bottle with the doctor crossed out on it. Decker checked inside and shook three into Johnny’s palm. Johnny dry swallowed and followed Decker into his room.
“Mind if I do the requisite Dealer/Buyer twenty minutes?”
“Something eating ya, Johnny?”
“I think so, but I don’t know what.”
“Not sure I follow. Mind if I smoke?”
“I mean I feel like something’s actually eating me.”
Decker cupped the lighter indoors when lighting his smoke. He sat on his bed in the middle of the room in silence and took a drag. Decker scanned Johnny’s face for a moment, “This has to do with your dreams, doesn’t it?”
Decker tapped his foot and took another hit.
“Since a couple years ago, I’ve been having either fragged up nightmares—like apocalypse type stuff—or fragged up dreams about fragging.”
“Any deets from the latter?”
“Usually starts out okay enough. Then once we get going, whoever is there they go dark, and it’s like I’m being-”
“-Sucked into a black hole by the best orgasm ever?”
Johnny cocked his head, “I suppose that’s a pretty good description of it.”
“Have I even mention that I hav-had a brother?”
“I don’t think we’ve ever gotten that close. You still never saw me when I was in DeMolition Lab.”
“You quit?”
“In a sense.”
“Weak. Regardless, my brother died when I was a kid. I was eight, he was fifteen. When he died, I saw, something, over him. When I got older, I started seeing it in my sleep too. So I stopped sleeping.”
“That explains a lot about you.”
“So this thing, you know what it is?”
“Only thing that matches is an Incubus or Succubus.”
“And in reality world.”
“No, serious. I’ve got a link to the world’s collected data archives in the base of my skull,” Decker tapped the shaved spot of his head where his corporate sponsored graybox lay beneath, “after all that research, going to monsters made sense when nothing else did.”
Johnny scoffed, “So I’m being attacked by nightmare sex demons?”
“Maybe,” Decker blew smoke out his nose, “I don’t know. All I can say is, if you are, expect bad dreams.”
Johnny’s hangover had mostly dissipated but he felt like puking, “Expect bad dreams?”
Decker dropped his smoke into an empty beer bottle, “Well, yeah. I think it’s pretty clear you’re having them.”
“Yeah,” Johnny steadied himself with the door jamb, “you’re right. Look, I’m gonna get going.”
“Sure ‘nuff. When are you reupping? I need a stim celebration package for New Years,” Decker called after.
Johnny was already crossing the common space, “I’ll keep you posted.”

The unit next to Decker’s, that had been Spencer’s place, before Johnny lost track of other occupants, was empty.  Laughter came from the piano bar downstairs. Johnny walked back out of Spencer’s or somebody’s open door and peeked over the rail.
Johnny rattled his way down the center steps. The Young Tart’s Social Club was in full effect; smoking, drinking wine, and laughing while playing cards. Thorn, Lex and Terry sat around a table with that cute girl with all facial piercings Johnny never bothered to learn her name.
“JohNNY,” Lex squeed, “hey there handsome, gonna join?”
“Who’s moving out?” Johnny thumbed towards unit 212.
“Fine, lovely day don’t ya think?” Lex went back to her wine, “prick.”
“I think it was that glasses chick,” Piercing Girl discarded three, “you know, the one with the cat?”
Thorn blew a cloud of smoke, “Who, Becky? No, she moved out like three weeks ago,” Thorn discarded a club from her flush, “gimme one,” she took a drag and a diamond for a row of hearts, “skag. And she was in 214,stupid. She was like, acting all weird and stuff for the last couple days, then she was like,” Thorn stabbed the air with her finger, “*boop* gone.”
“No, I meant the other chick with glasses. You know,” Piercing Girl gestured with her half-full glass, “the one with the cat. She would like, sit on her couch all day with the door open. That chick.”
“Oooooooooooooooooooh,” Terry said and drew two replacement cards from the deck, “that chick? She was weird.”
“Says the lady with a collage of old cut up paperback book illustrations,” Johnny screwed his face at Terry.
Terry stuck her tongue out at Johnny, “Alright bitches, show ‘em.” The girls dropped their cards on the table. All but Piercing Girl groaned.
Johnny crossed his arms, “Anyone else find it weird that people are just moving in and vanishing?”
“I find it weird Melody’s a cheating cunt,” Lex said behind her wineglass.
“Language, Alexia,” Melody said, collecting a pile of loose smokes and pills for the round. Terry dealt more cards.
Lex’s mouth was agape in mock outrage, “You dare.”
Johnny walked away as The Young Tarts Social Club tittered like schoolgirls behind their hands.
“Bye bye Johnnycakes,” Thorn called after.
“What the frag ever, man.”


Johnny drank from a labelless soupcan. His hands idle in his lap, supporting the drink with tented fingers, ass ache from the barstool. //are you gonna buy something or get on a wagon// I have this one Johnny didn’t bother to look up //looking up might kill ya once in a while// sing~songy tone like a bird in the morning when all you want is to sleep in—
Johnny rolled over in bed, came to consciousness for a second and said to himself he was totally going to remember this moment.
Johnny was heading home from somewhere. He’d been out and the day held no new secrets. He took the spiral staircase instead of going up the stairwell like usual since it was so convenient-wait,
why didn’t Johnny use the stairwell?
-he was driving his car he totally had and the spiral staircase is like so just there and—
—Standing like a thing out of a dream. Hair wild and lightning flashing for backlight. //Marko, you lazy frag. I told you I couldn’t protect you anymore.//
I should have listened to my dreams for once in my life.
Whole lotta good that’s done me.
Johnny sulked.
//You do remember all those years ago, don’t you? Skag, they could be centuries by now.//
They’re not(am i still climbing these stairs)
//Now it’s too late.
They’ve fed too much from all of you.
You’re next up to move out, Johnny.
They’re gonna use you to break through.
Take hosts again. They’ve convinced the rest.//
You mean the Succu-
//-Shut your mouth child, not in the Dreaming. You know what I fought that stuck me here.
Don’t need to be callin’ attention to ourselves, ya know?//
(i am still climbing these stairs)Johnny nodded
//And that’s what’s gonna eat ya, Johnnylove.
We can’t see each other that way.//
Maybe that’s a good thing.
//Yeah. It probably is.//
Will it hurt?
//It’ll feel terribly great from what I’ve seen.//
I wanted to move out of this place anyway. Away from—Johnny looked upwards past Tressie’s tresses. The spiral staircase had straightened. At the end, gargoyle-perched atop the Bauhaus era styled architecture sat a brick turret. In its center was a door with an opaque panel of glass pulsing with soft light. Framed in the panel, moments at a time, a slim—void black—shadow shown. The pulsing light grew in steady beats to a pound. Brick crumbles from the turret sides. Beneath shimmers corrugated sheet metal siding. Johnny’s on his feet.
//You were a reactor core. Plug you in and we’d shine for days. Whatever happened to that Johnny?//
Wordless Johnny pushes past Tressie up wooden steps. The roof to Johnny’s left opens into a bruised sky setting in reverse. Each step keeps Johnny two steps away from the door. Traveling faster makes it worse. Taking stairs by twos and threes pushes the shack into the vanishing point. The lattice to the right that would have been there normally had vanished somewhere. The sky found night forgetting to invite the earth. Johnny stood on rippling blackness with nothing but a horizon line and a dot that could once have been a doorway to a studio apartment. You know what? Frag this skag. I’m sick of this fraggin’ snakepit. Ya hear me? Come and fraggin’ get me, limprick.
No answer came.


Johnny felt like he’d been climbing stairs all night. He remembered waking up sometime during the night and felt there was a dream he was supposed to remember. Johnny opened his eyelids to slits.
Pre-dawn blue lit the courtyard in a soft haze. Johnny stood in the center of the third floor, leaning on the railing. He drug a palm over his face and knuckled sleep from his eyes. How did I get out here? He hawked a loogie into the center of the stage that must have been an above ground pool at some point. No one was awake. All replaced by a beautiful calm where one could dissect every moment of their life in introspective, zen-like, bliss. Johnny thought about the creds, both legit and crypto, and cash he had stashed away. A decent sum to move up north maybe. Check out the rest of the great megacity-state. Maybe move down to Antarctica, work with the terraforming teams. Anywhere but here. Something to turn around his fragging life in this postadolescent stage.
Lex walked out of her apartment, leaving the door wide open. That in itself wasn’t that abnormal but that she was barely clothed, actually that wasn’t that abnormal either. She was obviously sleepwalking, eyes shut and shuffling.
Johnny caught something in the corner of his eye. If there was a light in that opaque glass it faded once Johnny had his gaze on it. Lex had lurched herself up to the second floor by the spiral staircase. Johnny cut her off at the third.
“Lex, up-and-at-’em Lexie,” Johnny shook Lex as best he could to avoid brain damage. Wishing life was a twentieth century oldmedia flick so he could slap her awake, but concussion science had developed a lot in a hundred years, leaving Johnny to shout her name in her face.
“What the frag, leave me alone,” Lex pushed at Johnny, “I’m tired, geddoff me.”
“Lex, wake the frag up, what are you doing?”
Lex’s eyes barely registered another person, “Going to see someone.”
“Do you see me?”
“Of course I,” Lex’s eyes gained awareness, “Johnny, why are you in my,” Lex examined her surroundings and covered herself, “did I do this on purpose?”
“I can’t tell you for certain, but I don’t think you did,” Johnny looked across the courtyard in the rising morning light at 211, “go get dressed and meet me at Trip and Decker’s.”
“Uh, Ok. Weird much.”
“I think Decker can help explain away the weirdness. He’s done the research for us.”
“Nobody like, roofied me or anything, right?”
“You did that to yourself, but this is different. Kinda. Just get ready. Don’t wear anything you don’t want blood on.”

“What do you mean we dragged you out of bed?” Johnny scoffed, “You told me you never sleep.”
“But I almost did this time,” Decker rubbed swollen eyes. Lex, in Decker’s command chair, swiveled about in a circle of hardware, knocking over one of the server towers with a *THUD*. “Stop that,” Decker hissed. Lex planted her feet.
Door scraping against jamb sounded from the hallway. Trip shuffled out of his bedroom into the common area. “Why are people in my home?” Trip fiddled with his robe belt, “Dammit Decker, this is why I was against moving back.”
“Lex was sleepwalking, and Johnny thinks I was right about evil lurking on the 4th floor,” Thorn was JumpedUp and wide eyed.
“Then why are you here?” Trip said through a yawn.
Johnny stepped forward, “Decker’s the only one who has experience with what’s up there. Besides me, I guess.”
Decker said, “Then why is Thorn here?”
“I was up. Thought it’d be fun.”
Trip sighed, “Well, I guess I’m up now. What’s going on?”
Johnny said, “So, like, twenty some odd years ago my girlfriend at the time used to live here. She started having crazy apocalypse dreams, and being the religious type, went to church about it.”
“Last resort of the weak,” Thorn scoffed.
“It was reasonable enough for her,” Johnny pierced Thorn with dagger eyes, “but it did frag her in the end.”
Lex perked up, “Did she end up joining a zealotus cult?”
Johnny looked stunned, “Yeah, kinda. How’d you know?”
“Lucky guess. Word association,” said Lex.
“You guys hear about the Holy Knights?” Johnny stroked his lazyhawk.
Decker’s faraway stare glowed orange. “Fringewiki has them as a sanctioned sect of the Universal Church. They hunt Lilim. Claiming to have acute knowledge of their mentality and biology.”
“What’s a Lilim?” Trip cocked his horseface.
Decker groaned, “Dude,” exasperated sigh, “really? I gotta follow the link?” Decker’s eyes twitched back and forth, “Oh swallow my schlong, the intro is like five walls of text. Whatever, I’ve read up on this slag before. They’re like supernatural bounty hunters for the Universal Church.”
“Focus,” Johnny silenced the group, “she was having similar dreams to many of us. I’d put money on the same as everyone who’s been moving out of the years.”
“Except us,” Trip said, “we came back.”
“Yes, except Trip and Decker,” Johnny took a breath, “Lex was next on the list. And me.”
“I was almost up on the fourth floor,” Lex looked like she was sleepwalking again, “Johnny woke me. I was dreaming about seeing someone for something important. I just had to get-”
“-To the door,” Lex, Decker and Johnny said together.
They stood in silence what felt like five minutes.
“So what do we do now?” Decker said.
“Tressie, my girlfriend, had to cross over into, ‘the dreaming,’ is how she put it,” Johnny put his hands in his pockets, “she fought an Incubus in the dream world. She won, but ended up trapped there.”
Thorn raised her hand, “I’m totally high. So did you just say that your ex is stuck in a dream world with sex demons?”
“Wanted to get that straight,” Thorn sat on the floor, staring at her floral print sundress that she sat cross legged in. After contemplating life, the universe and everything in the span of a JumpLoop, Thorn raised her hand.
“Yes, Thorn?” Johnny called on her.
“We don’t have to cross over into dreamland or anything, right?” Thorn’s eyes widened with untold horrors, “I don’t think I’d want to go there.”
“The sex demon part sounds hot,” said Lex.
Decker said, “That kind of thinking got us into this mess in the first place.”
“Fellow Das Hausians. I think it’s time to see what’s on the fourth floor,” Trip did a stock adventurer pose.


Decker and Trip held up the rear guard. Thorn and Lex held hands as they climbed the wooden steps fenced in with lattice. Johnny was on point, looking to his left to the sky as sunrise finished. He turned to face the group before the door. Johnny’s eyes saw doors opening on the first floor. From each one, a dazed face tenant shuffled out into the grass.
“You guys ready for this?” The group nodded at Johnny. Lex and Thorn gripped each others hands. Lex bit her lip. Johnny gripped the knob, breathed out, and… the knob rattled a bit, but didn’t budge.
“Uh-oh, guess we gotta turn back around and let our nightmares eat us,” Trip tried to retreat and was grabbed by the arms by Decker and Lex.
“Someone give me your house key,” Johnny said, failing at working his into the keyhole.
“Why?” Thorn was incredulous.
Decker reached into his pocket and passed it up, “Because some of our keys are interchangeable.”
“What the frag?” Trip gawped, “I so hope our key isn’t the-” Johnny turned the knob with 211’s key, “-murdershackkey. Well I’m not sleeping ever again.”
“Been there done-” Decker said.
Johnny started cracking the door open, “Enough snappy banter. Stay frosty.”
“You just said enough snappy,” Decker dropped his head, “I’ll shut up now.”

They burst into the room filled with old cathode tube monitors and medical equipment. Different stats displayed on each matrix green on spinach green screen. From corners unseen, tubing and wires sprouted and crept ivy-like around the room. The early morning coolness stopped at the door. Inside, still air stunk of chemical and infection. In the center of the mess of med equipment and wires was a pink sickly thing that looked like an androgynous forty-something laid out on a gurney. Mummified corpses lay beneath in mounds of dust. It sat up. Beautifully terrible yellow irises flashed at the group. Boney bumps under its skin ridged down its forehead. Past its nose was a cross between a snarl and a smile.
It spoke, “Mmmm, the first course of our final feast.”
“Are you?”
“We are trapped here, away from our brothers and sisters. Our life goal has been to bring our kind back to this plane of reality,” It pulled itself upright, tubes feeding into it’s new-flesh pink torso moved beneath, “Where we can thrive again. Avoid stagnating as a pustulant sect of lotus eaters. Feeding upon our drug that is humanity’s lust and dreams. Staying numb to the world that birthed us, the world that sorely needs us to keep it in check.”
Several things happened at once. Lex turned and ran from the shack back down the steps, only to be turned back by a score of Das Hausians surrounding the spiral staircase. Trip fainted. Decker goggled at the surrounding monitors. Thorn gave a rapid fire string of expletives. The creature switched its gaze to unconscious Trip and licked its lips. Johnny reached under his shirt like he was scratching his back.
“So sick of all these pitiful so called dreamers and artists this pit attracts. This horrid shack has barely sustained our hunger since the seventies.”
“Only twenty some odd years ain’t so bad,” Decker was following where the wiring began and the tubing ended as the asexual pink thing’s life support.
“The nineteen seventies.”
“That’s a pretty low shot,” Johnny said, fingers tensing against the rubber grip of his M9 tucked in his waistband.
“You try practically starving that long,” The Incubus/Succubus pulled itself closer to the edge of the gurney. Wires and IV’s tugged at rollable freestands. The monitors toppled over in a domino effect, sparking and bursting on impact. It pulled itself free from its life giving bonds, spraying a not red dark liquid from the holes. The creature’s eyes flared with greedy laser red light as it lunged for Trip’s body.

The crack echoed about in the hardly insulated room, ringing out for miles around. The thing doubled over itself and slumped off the gurney, pulling the last monitors standing to the floor with it. Johnny blinked away drops of its blood on his eyelashes. Thorn shrieked in absolute horror, covered in foreign insides. Decker stared on in wide eyed wonder as if he were videotaping the event. Decker brought Trip back around, let him know it was okay now, and got him to his feet.

Murmurings rose from the courtyard behind them. A shrill whistle, followed by Lex’s 818girl drawl, “Guys, get down here, c’mon.”
More bursts of random whistling. Johnny blew smoke out of the barrel, switched on the safety, and left the room. The remaining crew shuffled behind, looking dazed and covered in gore. The sun was already a shaded light bulb behind the smog layer. Each door in Das Haus stood wide open. Everyone left in the complex gathered around the stage at the base of the spiral staircase.
Decker, Johnny, Thorn, and Trip moved through the parting crowd and sat on the lip of the stage. Sirens blared in the distance. Lex stood in the center of a group, “So? Are you gonna tell us what’s up there?”


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lazy, strung out, strumming.

What is the value of art?

Whatever the individual values human emotion and experience at.

Everyone wants to be entertained. To me, reading comment sections of things makes me feel like no one wants to be entertained the way people are offering it. I feel that's from the entry bar being lowered into the worlds of content creation. The only barrier between doing and consuming is the amount of time, money and willpower you're willing to invest into making something worth someone else's time to then consume. This barrier is what separates commentator from creator.

It's way easier to bitch about how something didn't happen the way that you thought it should (which may be a fucking stupid way to do it). With every varying taste, the only thing I can suss out that everyone wants in a story, is the truth as close as it can happen within the world that's being crafted. Violations to that have fluctuating degrees of success depending on the audience. And you will always hear about it if there's space for someone to speak their mind about it.

I thankfully haven't been a target of someone's hate and bile for something I've made, but it's disheartening to see when people don't understand things that seem so obvious to yourself. While that leads to the wonder of the world being a collection of different perspectives, some people's perspectives are just fucking stupid. Either they weren't paying attention to the finer notes of what was given to them, or some imagined sensibility was offended, but if someone doesn't get it, the vitriol that spills out is best avoided. That may be in part because liking something is so standard and automatic. If someone rages on about something they hated, you end up with some of the greatest poetry of a human's soul. Which, if redirected could become a fresh work in its own merit. But alas, most folk prefer to spend their time bitching about stuff they hate instead of creating something they don't.

What brought this on was watching the season finale of True Detective, and thinking back to post episode tweets that mostly rang with the, "what is even going on?" message. True Detective, like any great mystery/noir, requires you to take the thing as a whole. But since it has to wrap up something in the space of sixty minutes while advancing the season plot to an ultimate conclusion, that means every week has to have something for those just tuning in, and esoteric things for those trying to tally off, "whodunnit". If you're casually watching the show, it's going to leave you feeling lost at times. The show is designed to confuse and obfuscate. But when shows have mass appeal, the more that insist on spoonfeeding all the answers up front.

It's like when you're watching a new movie, and you have someone constantly in your ear asking, "Who's that? What did they say? What did that mean?" All you want to say to them is, "Shut up, I have the same information as you." But you don't because while annoying in theaters, you're still friends with this person for some reason. That's how I picture everyone who didn't get season 2 of True Detective while it was still airing.

Season Finales are a perfect time for people to be disappointed by things. Mostly when they don't end the way the audience wants it to end. People still gripe about Seinfeld's finale, Mass Effect's ending, the end of The Sopranos, the final season of Dexter, and there are some valid complaints. But endings are always bitter for someone. The reactions you receive shape the legacy of the entire series. You end up being asked, "Why did it end in a church," for the rest of your life if people don't get the way it ends, which overshadows the entire work.

A good ending needs to be a payoff for every interaction through your entire work. It needs to answer all questions, tie or cut all threads, and only leave the questions the creator wants to ask be left lingering in the audience's mind. If you can do that right, you've got the world by the balls.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Dark Knight of the Soul

Talk about getting them in at the zero hour.

Firstly, my new book Pretty Words for Hateful Bastards is available to sell in all formats.

Amazon Kindle and PaperbackSmashwords in all eBook formats.

So today I just got back from being away from the city. A trip that allowed me to get hammered and introspective. It made me think about the future of my written works and the universe I've been building for over a decade, and just now putting it into form. Aside from that, it made me think about how I'm really doing all of this world building to ultimately make a comic book.

Recently, I've been reading graphic novels, particularly Batman. The world is perpetually in love with Batman, and can you blame them? Batman's had so many sides to him, so many years, and so much mythos, that at this point talking about him further would be a waste of everyone's time. But we love having our time wasted by Batman.

It all begins with being born in an alley. The iconic place in American folklore where all tragedy strikes. Every alley in America has the criminal element waiting for some square to take the wrong shortcut home. It helps establish the randomness of Batman's origin and makes you feel that this story could happen to anyone. Since in America, the land of opportunity, everyone can grow up and become president (all thanks to our other American folk hero, Lincoln). It makes you feel that you could be Batman.

Of course not all of us can be Batman. But as a child, urging your parents to make dangerous shortcuts in dodgy slums, those parents you're trying to march off into your orphanhood are getting in the way of your true calling. What you really could achieve is being adopted by Batman and becoming Robin. Which is essentially becoming Batman in waiting. After all, Jason Todd was recruited trying to steal hubcaps from the Batmobile.

But, yes, having inexhaustible wealth is a huge part of even owning a Batmobile. And as far as we know, no multi-billionaire is tooling around their hometown fighting crime. Let alone looking up random orphans to take under their wing like you're Annie. But it fulfills that dream inside of us that our parents aren't our parents and our real parents are our culture's royalty and they're going to die and I can do whatever I want.

And deep down inside, apparently, we all want to fight crime. Or at least seeing those that we deem to deserve justice be hoisted by their own petard.

Batman fulfills that idea of man becoming driven so far by good that he faces his own fears and comes out the other side. He is superlative, but still a mortal man. The only difference between you and Bats is all those wonderful toys and Bruce Wayne's ability to turn a multi-million dollar medical company entrusted to him into a hundred-billion tech leader in all scientific disciplines. And of course years of training, data harvesting and resource management.

Batman is the full spectrum of everything right and wrong about comics. But that's because he's had to endure every age of comicdom and be re-written to be cool, dark, campy, gay, and all spaces and mixtures in between. Batman wears a hat for everyone. Even the people who haughtily say they don't like Batman.

The story of the Bat is a primal one. And there's been dozens of amazing interpretations by the greatest talent in the fields of storytelling. But to accept the story of Batman, you have to accept the entire ugly history. From alley to return, Batman is the modern day Jesus. Consistently resurrected to sacrifice his body and bleed to save us all from ourselves.